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Posts Tagged ‘bots’

Writing AI is Like Parenting

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Ted Vessenes wrote a nifty little post on his blog where he compared designing and programming AI to being a parent. Here’s the opening paragraph:

“Writing artificial intelligence is a lot like being a parent. It requires an unbelievable amount of work. There are utterly frustrating times where your children (or bots) do completely stupid things and you just can’t figure out what they were thinking. And there are other times they act brilliantly, and all the effort feels satisfying and well spent.”

I have to agree with a lot of the points he makes in his post. I would like to take the analogy one step farther.

I’ve occasionally made the point about both parenting and AI that your job is to not define what your progeny should do but convey an understanding of why. If, as a parent, you tell your child not to run in the street, they will hopefully carry that lesson into the future. However, they may not apply that same edict to driveways, parking lots or any other places where they could get plowed over by a car. This is analogous to the scripted AI methodology. However, if you explain the why of the situation – i.e. “be careful anywhere that cars are moving because the driver may not see you in time to stop and you could get badly hurt” – then the simple rule can be applied to any situation where there are cars (or even car-like objects). This, of course, maps over to rule-based systems or even planning systems.

However, going back to Ted’s point, it is an interesting similarity to put all those rules into place and hope that your little bots realize the appropriate situations in which to use them. I actually wrote a column about this scary process on my weekly column over at AIGameDev.

Anyway, if you are an AI developer, I hope that you are blessed with many children who all grow up to be accomplished in their chosen lives (or deaths).

Neurotic bots beats “Age of Mythology” AI

Friday, November 30th, 2007

According to a blog post on the New Scientist magazine web site, an experiment (pdf file) by some Austrian researchers shows you don’t have to be entirely sane to beat the AI in the 2002 RTS game, “Age of Mythology” by Ensemble Studios.
The group wants games to be more engaging by having emotional, not just coolly calculating, computer players. Instead of just challenging your rational planning and decision skills, you’ll have use your emotional intelligence too.

I am also very interested in the inclusion of psychology into the AI of computer games and simulations. I am very well versed in psychology and emotional response. However, I’m not entirely sure whether they proved any point here. They could claim that it was their model, which simulated “the big five” emotional dimensions to personality recognised by psychologists. On the other hand, it could very well be game design decisions or poor AI.

“Age of Mythology” was the follow up to the “Age of Empires” series. Those games were not well known for their AI prowess. (In fact, when lead designer Rick Goodman left to found Stainless Steel Studio, the bloodline was improved significantly with Empire Earth which was known for its AI. I’d love to see their neurotic bots take on that game.) Additionally, there are so many combinations of how the bot AI designed by the researchers could match up with the AI for AoM, that simply balancing those two alone would be daunting. Some very simple arbitrary choices about coefficients used in decision making could have skewed any other data one way or the other. I’m not discounting their research, but as a simulation modeller, I know the challenges involved in creating a multi-variate system such as this.

On the other hand, I think it just says more about what Ensemble did – or did not do – with the game design and AI of “Age of Mythology”.
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